Revelation 3:14-21, The Church of the Laodiceans: The Church of the Good Self-Image, part 1.

“And to the church of the Laodiceans write,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:  “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, having become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.  Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.  To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.   (NKJV)

1. The City of the Epistle, v. 14.

Laodicea was founded about 250 BC at a critical point in the road system of the country.  It was very strongly fortified, but had one serious weakness:  it was dependent on water from a system of aqueducts from the north and south.  Ruins of these aqueducts exist today.  We’ll have more to say about these aqueducts later on.

The city became famous for three things, all alluded to in the letter.  It was a great commercial and financial center.  It was the manufacturing center for several kinds of widely esteemed garments.  It was the location of a famous medical school, which was noted, among other things, for its medicine for the eyes.

In the 4th century, a council was held in the city which, humanly speaking, established the New Testament canon.

“Laodicea” comes from two words meaning, “the voice, or rule, of the people” – democracy, as opposed to the voice or rule of God, or theocracy.  The church there was a rich church materially, but in a condition of absolute poverty, spiritually speaking.  Surely it speaks of the church in our time, with all the fancy buildings and hierarchy and organization, but little if any real effect on our culture.  Indeed, much of the professing church seems to be adding to the debasement of that culture.  Truly, Lamentations 4:1 may be applied to this church and to the church of our time:  How the gold has become dim!  How changed the fine gold!

2. The Christ of the Epistle, v. 14.

Our Lord uses three titles to establish His connection with this church and to remind them of their own responsibility and failings.

The Amen.  This is an untranslated Hebrew word meaning something is established, certain and positive.  In the case of God’s dealing with Israel – and with mankind in general, it means that what He has said, He will do.  He is dependable and trustworthy.  We may trust our eternal souls and being into His care.  Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20.  He will not fail.  He cannot fail.

The Faithful and True Witness.  See Hebrews 1:1, 2.  No matter how faithless or false the church may be, its Head remains Faithful and True (Genuine).  Our Lord has never once denied or deserted the purpose of God.  Never has He left perfection or righteousness.  He is faithful.  But He is also True.  Many founders or followers of cults and false religions are faithful to what they believe, but those things are not true.  They are not of God.  But Jesus is.  Because He is, He gives a complete and correct description of Laodicea.  They could deceive themselves and others, but not Him.

The Beginning of the Creation of God.  There are those who knock at your door who will say that this simply means that the Word was the first act of creation, “the firstborn over all creation,” Colossians 1:15.  After that, He, the Word, created everything else.  However, Colossians 1:16 goes on to say, For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible….  The JW bible, The New World Translation, (which I DO NOT recommend!) translates this verse as “because by means of him all [other] things were created….”  They add the word, “other,” to the verse, though they do mark it as added.  They also add the word 4 other places in vs. 16-20.  “All [other] things,” v. 16, “He is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things,” v. 17, “reconcile again to himself all [other] things.”

An interesting fact is that in their interlinear Greek NT, which is the standard 1881 Westcott and Hort text, Colossians 1:16 reads, “because in him was created all the things in heavens and upon the earth.”  Surely one can see the difference!  The Greek text says Christ created everything; the JW version says He created everything else!  There is a difference.  There is no word for “other” in the Greek text!  In any of the four verses the NWT had it.  The NWT is a false translation.

JWs also make a big deal out of the word “firstborn” in Col. 15, He is the firstborn over all creation, though they translate it “the firstborn of all creation,” as do the KJV and some newer translations.  According to them, this means that He was the first-created of creation.  However, in Scripture, the word “firstborn” has two different meanings.  It does often mean the first child born in a family, whether human or animal, as, for example, in Genesis 48.  The chapter recounts Isaac’s blessing of Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  When it became apparent that Isaac meant to bless Ephraim more than Manasseh, Joseph stopped him, saying that Manasseh was “the firstborn,” v. 18, also Genesis 41:51.  Manasseh was the older, and by right and custom, should have had that blessing, cf. 43:33; Deuteronomy 21:17, but Isaac said that Ephraim was to receive it.  By the way, those brothers in Genesis 43?  They were terrified because they thought the man who was their host had some magical or demonic power because he knew their birth order.  They had no idea he was actually the brother they had sold into slavery.

In addition to the meaning of being the first one actually born, it also means “preeminent” or “given priority.”  We see an example of this in 1 Chronicles 5:1, Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel – he was indeed the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed [Genesis 35:22], his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph….

It is this second meaning of “priority,” “preeminence” that Colossians 1:15 uses.  Paul concludes the thought of these verses, that in all things He may have the preeminence.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that might mean “may or may not.”  The word denotes certainty, not mere possibility.

Make no mistake about it.  The day is coming, and we hope, soon, when our Lord will return to this earth, and there will no doubt that He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

(Lord willing, we’ll finish this in our next post.)

Advertisements

Hell is Real

A few years ago, there was a book titled, “Heaven is Real.”  It related the story of a young boy who was said to have gone to heaven.  The gist of the story is that, because of the experiences of this lad and his family, we can be assured that “heaven is real.”

In my last post, I said that, because of our sin, we have no claim on God, but He has a claim on us.  I said, “That claim concerns His justice.  We have broken His Law.  We have come under its penalty.  We have incurred a debt.  That penalty involves eternal separation from Him.”  Then I said I would have more to say in a later post, Lord willing.

This is that post.

Based, not on experience, but on the clear and authoritative teaching of our Lord, we can be assured of another truth about the future:  Hell is real.

There is a lot of discussion about the existence of Hell.

To some people, it’s nothing more than a curse word.

To some, who deny any existence beyond death and the grave, it doesn’t even exist.  Neither does heaven.

To some, the bad experiences of this life are hell.  One place I worked, one of the ladies there said she believed this life is hell.  Based on the difficult place we worked, I could understand her feelings, though I didn’t agree with her.  It’s the only job I ever held that, when I woke up in the morning, I was sorry I wasn’t sick, so I could call in.

To some who will knock on your door, “hell” is just the grave.  If that’s true, then why did our Lord warn us in Matthew 5:27-30 that if a part of our body leads us into sin, it would be better to cut off that part, rather than your whole body be cast into hell”?  Hell is not just the grave.

To some, hell is just about remorse and sorrow that one has missed out on the blessings of salvation.

In contrast to these ideas, our Lord gave a different view.  In Luke 16:19-31 (NKJV),He said,

“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.  But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.  Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.  So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.  The rich man also died and was buried.  And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and say Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
“Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.  And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’  Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’  But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead’.”

There’s some discussion as to whether this portion tells a real story or is just a story, a parable.  I think it’s real, but that doesn’t really matter.  Even if this is only a parable, well, Jesus’ parables were designed to teach and illustrate truth.  There is truth here.

1. There is existence after death.

If we had only the phrase, the rich man also died and was buried, we might be able to say that was the end of things for him.  But we have the account of the death of Lazarus and what happened, as well as the conversation he and the rich man had afterward.

This is in agreement with other Scriptures.  Hebrews 9:27 says, …it is appointed for men once to die, but after this the judgment….  There is an “after” as far as death is concerned.  It isn’t the end of things.

This portion also tells us –

2. There is a time of reckoning after death.

…after this the judgment….  Matthew 5 doesn’t tell us everything about what happens to people after their death.  It’s designed to warn us that there is something after death, and that what happens in this life isn’t necessarily an indication of what will happen then.  The rich man lived a life of luxury and plenty, yet he wound up being tormented; the beggar lived in sickness and poverty, yet he wound up being comforted.

It’s widely believed that there is only “a better place” out there after death.  According to our Lord, that is not true.  There is also, if I may put it like this, “a bitter place.”    There is a time, and a place, where the things of this life will be examined and judged, a time when those who have “gotten away with it” will discover that, no, they haven’t.

3. There is a place of torment after death.

Luke 16:22b-24 says, The rich man also died and was buried.  And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  Then he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”

This isn’t the only place where the Lord mentions such things. In Mark 9:43-49, He said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched – where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched – where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’  And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire – where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’  For everyone shall be seasoned with fire….”

This is perhaps the hardest thing to accept, especially in this day when the Word of God is generally held in such low esteem, and when faulty views of God are so prevalent.  How can a “God of love” send men and women to a place of torment?  People just can’t reconcile this idea with the idea that God could do such a thing, and so, reject it.

Our Lord teaches otherwise.

You see, as I said above, we have broken God’s law.  We are guilty and under sentence of its punishment:  eternal separation from God.  Though the body dies, the soul lives on, and the body will one day be resurrected, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation,” or as the KJV put it, “the resurrection of damnation,” John 5:29.

Don’t misread that “good” as though there are some who will go to heaven because of it.  Our Lord was speaking from the viewpoint of being under the Law, wherein there were some who were considered “blameless,” for example, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist.  Luke 1:6 describes them as both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

“Blameless.”

Even the Apostle Paul, before his conversion, considered himself “blameless,” Philippians 3:6.  But, as he put it, “I was alive once without the Law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died,” Romans 7:9.  This has nothing to do with his “fellowship with God” being broken after his conversion, but rather, the cataclysm that occurred in his life as he traveled toward Damascus with the sole purpose of rooting out and destroying those who followed Jesus of Nazareth, cf. Acts 26:9-11.  Afterward, he looked at those things of which he had been so proud as no better than the refuse of his own body, Philippians 3:8.

Later in life, he wrote, There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.  They have all turned aside, Romans 3:10-12.

“None righteous” –

None who measures up to the standards and requirements of God’s holiness.  There is a lot of “religion” among men, but, apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no righteousness for all that.

“None who understands” –

None who understand that we come short of what God requires of us.  None who understand that nothing we can do measures up to what God requires of us.  Indeed, some are offended at the very idea that God can “require” anything of us.

“None who seeks after God” –

None who understand that the only place to get that righteousness God requires is from God Himself.  That righteousness is the righteousness of Christ imputed to those who believe on Him.

Apart from that righteousness, we all stand condemned in the sight of God, John 3:18, He who does not believe is condemned already.  In a very real sense, to the unsaved person, this life is little more than a cell on death row, waiting for the day of execution.  For the unbeliever, a place in hell is as assured as a place in heaven is for the believer.

But how can that be?  How can that be “just”?

We question the “justice” of this because we minimize sin.  Let me put it this way.  If one swats a fly, nothing is thought of it.  If one were to assault me, well, that might be considered more serious.  If, however, one were to assault the President of the United States, that would be considered very grave indeed.  Why the difference?  Because of the dignity and position of the person assaulted.

Sin is an assault against God.  Since we have brought God down to a level below us (in that we believe that we can confound His will and prevent His purpose), we don’t think of it like that.  However, because God is infinite, acts against Him bear infinite consequences.

Sin brings an infinite consequence:  an eternity in hell.

When the Lord Jesus died on the Cross, He suffered that consequence.  That doesn’t mean that He actually went to Hell; He did suffer that separation from God that is the essence of hell, Mark 15:34.

With our sanitized crucifixes and pictures, our superficial, “contemporary” Christianity, we have no idea whatever what that means.

It means that there is no salvation apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  It means there is no escaping our sin and its eternal consequence apart from Him.   Apart from Him, everything we do is sin, Proverbs 21:4, even the providing of the necessities of life.  Why is that?  Because we do it with no thought of Him.

And, apart from Him, there is no hope, Ephesians 2:12.

This is why Scripture urges us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, because there is no salvation anywhere else, only condemnation, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved, Acts 4:12.

Hebrews 1:3: The Son of God; God the Son.

“Who being [the] radiant splendor of His glory and [the] exact imprint of His nature,”  [author’s translation]

KJV, who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person,

NASB, And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature,

ESV, He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,

As we have perhaps belabored the point in these posts, Hebrews starts as it does in order that we might understand who spoke in NT times.  The writer says that God spoke – not just that God spoke in the prophets, but that He spoke in person, in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, Jesus is unique in history.  The OT prophet spoke as a messenger of God; the NT preacher or teacher speaks as a messenger of God, though not in the same way. There are no prophets today in the sense of bringing new revelation from God or as their being God.

Jesus spoke as the manifestation of God.

Five words or phrases in particular describe what we mean by “manifestation of God.”

1.  “being”.

This is a present participle, denoting absolute and timeless existence.  Cf. John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:6, 7; Hebrews 1:3 with 2:9, 17.  Note again the contrast between “being God,” and “becoming Man.”  There was indeed a point of origin for the humanity of Christ in the womb of His virgin mother.  There is no such beginning for Him as deity, as God.

2.  “radiant splendor”.

This is a difficult word of translate.  It doesn’t simply mean a “reflection” of God’s glory, as the moon reflects the light of the Sun.  Nor is it a part of it, like a “ray” of the Sun, or sunlight.  It is, as it were, the Sun itself.  In the OT, this “radiant splendor” was seen in the Shekinah Glory, and in the NT, we believe it was seen by the disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration, Matthew 17:2, by Saul on the Damascus road, Acts 9:3, and by John on Patmos, Revelation 1:16.  It’s a word which seems to me to speak of “fulness,” not of partiality.  It would tell us that what the Father is, the Son is, yet the Son is not the Father.

3.  “glory”.

I’m afraid this word is sometimes used in Christian circles without particular thought about what it really means.  What is the glory of God?  We’ve already referred to the Shekinah Glory, but there’s more to it than that.  It has been defined as “the expression of the divine attributes collectively.”  In other words, God’s glory is seen in everything that He is and does.

There are different facets of God’s glory.  There is what might be called “an essential glory,” that is, what comes from who He is, infinite and eternal, or “the three O’s” (omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient).  But there is also glory in what He does, whether in His common grace, as seen in His providential care of His creation, or in His special grace, as seen in His particular care of believers, His elect.  There is also a glory in what Paul calls “His severity,” Romans 11:22, in which His just wrath is and will be poured out on the unbeliever.

All of these are present and revealed in and by the Lord Jesus Christ.

4.  “exact imprint”.

The Greek word has come over into English: “character”.  The word originally described an engraving tool, then came to mean the mark left by that tool.  The image in the metal reproduced in every detail the image of the tool.  It was also used of the mark on a coin which determined its value.

Though the Lord Jesus was human, yet He bore the exact imprint, the precise reproduction, of deity, so that even to the unsaved, it was evident that He was more than a mere man.

5.  “nature”.

This word refers to a substructure, or foundation.  It tells of the substance, the reality, underlying the appearance.  In our verse, it refers to God’s essential being – what He is as God.  Jesus Christ showed forth in faithful, clear, precise and exact detail what the Father was like.  He could do this because in every clear, precise and exact detail, He is God.
____________

There are just a couple of final thoughts.  There are two names from Christian history which have influence even today because of the ideas they introduced into Christianity.  If we may use the word, they lived before a clear understanding of the Trinity was developed.  Indeed, they are the reason it was developed.

1.  Sabellius, early third century.  He taught that there was just one Person, with three names.  Since his day, other views similar to his have been promoted.  Most of the “illustrations”  used today of the Trinity are actually Sabellian.  For example, I am father to my son, son to my father, and, let’s say, husband to my wife.  The egg consists of white, yolk and shell.  Etc., etc.  There is no adequate illustration of the Trinity.

Having said that, perhaps the one that comes closest may be the cube.  A cube has length, width and height, yet it is one cube.  Without any one of those three things, it’s no longer a cube.  Yet the height isn’t the length or width, the length isn’t the height or width, and the width isn’t the height or length, still they all exist together at the same time in the one cube.

In a similar manner, the one Godhead is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father isn’t the Son or the Spirit, the Son isn’t the Father or the Spirit, and the Spirit isn’t the Father or the Son, yet They all exist together at the same time as the one God.  Without any one of them, there would be no God.  To deny any one of them is to deny God.

The New Testament clearly teaches the individuality of each member of the Trinity.  The baptism of our Lord is just one example.  In the baptism we see the Father speaking, the Son praying and the Spirit descending.

2.  Arius, early fourth century.  He taught that the Son is merely a creature.  He was the forerunner of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and many others.  We have certainly shown, or so we hope, that Jesus Christ is God, not a creature.

Some have sneered that Athanasius, the main opponent of Arius, was willing to split Christianity over a diphthong:
homoousios, one substance with the Father,
homoiousios, of similar substance – like God.

But, after all, there is a considerable difference in meaning between these two words, though they have only the difference of one vowel in spelling:

theist
atheist.

Hebrews 1:1, 2: Who Spoke?

1] In many portions and in many ways, of old God was speaking to the fathers in the prophets; 2] in the last of these days, He spoke to us in [His] Son, whom He appointed heir of all, through whom also He made the ages, 3] Who being [the] radiant splendor of [His] glory and [the] exact imprint of His essence, and maintaining everything through the word of His power, and having accomplished cleansing of sins, was made to sit at the right hand of the majesty on high.  [Author’s translation].

The writer begins Hebrews with the assertion that God spoke!  As he develops this thought, he sets up a three-fold contrast between the revelation of the Old Testament, i.e., the First Covenant, (in particular the Mosaic Covenant, but here including more than that), and the New Covenant, that is, the New Testament.

1.  Method.

The First Covenant was given in many portions over a long period of time – about 4000 years, and was not God’s final or complete revelation to Man.  The New Covenant was given complete in the relatively short span of about 60 years and is God’s final and complete revelation to man until the Second Coming.

2.  Recipients.

The First Covenant was given to “the fathers,” the New Covenant “to us.”  The First Covenant, while certainly inspired by God and intended for our “instruction” (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-14, especially vs. 6, 12) is nevertheless not the basis for either our faith or our conduct.  Those who attempt to mold the NT church or believers on OT patterns do so mistakenly.  From such a view, we have such doctrines as the Romish priesthood, the Reformed idea of a church-state, and infant baptism.

The idea of a church-state, or an “established church,” such as England and other nations have, and which the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution was designed to prevent, gives to the church magisterial, that is, civil, authority.  Historically, this has resulted in the suppression and persecution of dissent.  History records that both the Roman Catholic and Reformed churches vigorously wielded the civil sword against those who differed from them.  Millions have died at the hands of church authorities for the heinous crime of desiring to worship and serve God only as the Bible teaches and not as some church dictates.

Though many will disagree with us on this, and many who practice it are indeed known by the Lord, yet infant baptism has done for the Reformed churches what the invitation system has done for fundamentalist-type churches:  filled them with lost people.

The Romish priesthood denies the Mediatorial office of Christ, substituting the Virgin in His place (“Hail, Mary, full of grace.  Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”.)  There is no Biblical authority for this.  In fact, the last thing Mary said in the sacred record is found in John 2:5, “Whatever He says to you, do it,”  This is still wise advice.  These practices also deny the liberty and right of the individual believer to come personally and directly to God in prayer and for forgiveness.  Cf. Hebrews 4:16.

All these errors, and others, have come upon Christians simply because they have failed to distinguish between the First and New Covenants.

3.  Messengers.

The spokesmen of the First, or Old, Covenant, though they were truly prophets, were just men, like those to whom they spoke.  They were not “God.”  In the New Covenant, God spoke “in son,” emphasizing the nature and character of the Spokesman.  Though Man, Jesus was also God.

Having stated the equal inspiration of the Old and New Covenants, yet also maintaining the position of the New over the Old, the writer at once answers the question, “Who is this ‘son’?”  He demonstrates that the Son, the spokesman of the NC, is far superior to “the prophets,” the spokesmen of the OC, whom the Jews held in high regard.  Including the noun “son,” the writer makes eight statements about Him:

1.  “son”, His essential nature.
2.  “heir,” His exalted position.
3.  “made the ages,” His eternal power.
4.  “radiant splendor,” His evident deity.  In the words of an ancient confession, He was very God of very God.
5.  “exact imprint,” His earthly being.  That same confession:  He was very man of very man.
6.  “maintaining,” His effectual providence.
7.  “cleansing,” His efficacious sacrifice.
8.  “made to sit,” His earned preeminence.

Numbers 1 – 4 deal mainly, but not exclusively, with His deity; numbers 5 – 8 mainly, but not exclusively, with His humanity.  Corresponding numbers go together.

For example, numbers 4 and 5.  These refer to His essential being, deity (4) and humanity (5).  He was God; He became Man, John 1:1, 14.  In His incarnation, He didn’t cease to be God.  In His resurrection and ascension, He didn’t cease to be Man.

Numbers 3 and 6 speak of His power, referring to the creation of all things (3), and to their preservation and continuation according to God’s eternal purpose (6).

Numbers 2 and 7 refer to His position.  He is “heir” (2) because (7) He laid aside His eternal glory and prerogative in order to assume human existence so that He could be the substitute for and Savior of His people, Philippians 2:5-11.

Numbers 1 and 8 refer to His unique nature and character. (1) eternally God the Son, one with the Father in essence and nature, yet (8) still truly human.

Number 8 poses a difficulty for some.  Believing that Jesus merely returned to some former angelic state, they ask, “If he were God, how could he be exalted higher than He was before?”

Those verses which tell of His exaltation give a two-fold answer.

1.  He is exalted in His deity, because of the Incarnation.  As an example, suppose an earthly king stepped down from his throne in order to rescue some of his subjects at the price of great personal suffering and indignity.  On returning to his throne, the honor and praise he would receive because of the successful completion of his task would in no way detract from nor deny his kingship before the mission.  So with Jesus Christ.  Eternally God, yet He receives more glory because of His stepping down from His throne to rescue His people.

2.  He is exalted in His humanity, because of the Resurrection.  His humanity has been elevated to the dignity and glory of His deity, so that fully God, fully Man, he sits at the right hand of the Father.  1 Timothy 2:5 clearly establishes His present humanity:  For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (emphasis added).  Hebrews 8:6; 9:15 and 12:24 all confirm His present role as Mediator, so that it can’t be argued that 1 Timothy just refers to His earthly ministry.

It’s interesting that Jehovah’s Witnesses do the same thing with 1 Timothy 2:5 that they do with John 1:1.  Since there is no article (“the”) before “man Christ Jesus” in the original text, they translate it, “a man Christ Jesus,” just as they translate John 1:1, “the word was a god,” citing the absence of the article before “god.”  They assert that John was not claiming deity for Jesus, but merely that He was “godlike.”

Did Paul write to Timothy that Jesus was merely “manlike”?  Or was he asserting His real and true humanity, just as John asserted His real and true deity?

March Memories: The Third Genealogy.

[As we continue in our March Memories post reprints, I’ve become impressed with the necessity of emphasizing the unique person of the Lord Jesus.  Islam is resurging, and it views Jesus as just another prophet, important though He may be in their view of things, but nevertheless much inferior to their own prophet.  Certainly not God, nor did He die on the Cross.  And much of professing Christendom denies His deity and His redemption.]

Most people know of the genealogies of Matthew and Luke.  Matthew’s genealogy is condensed and intended to connect Jesus with the great covenants of the Old Testament:  the Abrahamic and the Davidic.  Matthew’s is the genealogy of Joseph.  His is the genealogy of Christ’s royalty, though both genealogies trace Jesus back to King David.  Luke’s genealogy is longer, some 75 generations, and goes through a different son of David all the way back to Adam.  This is Mary’s genealogy.

That’s two.  Where’s the third one?  I really hadn’t thought about it quite like this until recently, like this morning.  Perhaps in the strictest sense, it isn’t a genealogy, and yet it is.  It’s contained in two verses, though a few other verses add some explanation.  Here it is – you’ll recognize it immediately”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, John 1:1, 14.

This is the genealogy, if you will, of Christ’s deity.  In a few words, simple words in the Greek original, words so simple that beginning Greek students translate them in their first attempts at translation, – in a few words, John expresses truths that 2000 years of Church history haven’t begun to understand.

“Now, wait a minute!”  Someone who might knock at your door will say, “That’s not what John meant at all.  There’s no “the” in front of God in the Greek, so John was saying that Jesus was ‘a’ God.”  They also teach that the “beginning” John wrote about was when God created the Word, or Jesus.  He was the beginning, and then He created all the rest.  They might take you over to Proverbs, where the writer personifies wisdom and describes its role in creation.  “That,” they will say, “is Jesus.”  They might even tell you that He is really Michael, the archangel, brother of Lucifer.

Is that all John meant in these verses?  That Jesus was the first thing created by God, and He created everything else?  That He isn’t “God” at all, just “a god”?

It’s true that John didn’t write, “the Word was the God.”   There’s no article – no “the” – in front of God.  In the Greek language, there is no indefinite article – “a”, “an” – either.  As Martin Luther pointed out centuries ago, and someone probably pointed it out centuries before he did, John couldn’t have written, “The Word was the God,” because then he would have been saying that the Word and the Father were the same, and the Oneness folks, who deny the Trinity, would be right.  If John says one thing, it’s that the Word and the Father are distinct from each other.  They aren’t just different “manifestations” of the One God.

There’s another difficulty with the idea that Jesus is only “a” god.  What kind of “god” is He?  How many “gods” are there, or is He the only one?

They answer that by saying that Jesus was an angel, and in the OT, angels are called sons of God, Job 1:6.  He is, therefore, rightly called son of God.  It’s true that angels are called “sons of God.”  Does this, then, put them and Jesus in the same class?

The writer to the Hebrews anticipated this idea.  In 1:5 (NKJV), he wrote, …to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You?’  The expected answer is, “There are no angels to whom that was said.”  Not as a Jehovah’s Witness once told me, “Jesus is that angel,” and then quoted this verse to me.  He completely missed the point of the verse.  That is not what the writer was saying.  The Father was not speaking to ANY angel in that verse!

In fact, after discussing what the Father did not say to the Son, Hebrews goes on in v. 8 with what He did say, But to the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”  The New World Translation (NWT), the JW Bible, has it, “God is your throne forever and ever.”

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t even make sense.  Not to be irreverent or anything, but do they believe that Jesus is sitting on God’s lap?  The Greek text reads, “The throne of You, the God, into the ages of the ages.”  Note the presence of the article with God in this verse:  “the God”.  The contrast between Jesus and angels couldn’t be clearer.  In fact, in v. 6, Hebrews says, Let all the angels of God worship Him.  Even older versions of the NWT say that – I have a copy.  Granted, in newer editions, it’s changed to “Let all the angels of God do obeisance to Him,” but even then, it translates the Gk. word as “worship” when it doesn’t refer to Jesus.

How can two beings both be “God,” in view of all the Scriptures which tell us there is only “one God”?  There are a lot of illustrations of the Trinity, which is what this is really all about.  A cube is the best one I know.

A cube has length, width and height, all at the same time, but it’s not three cubes.  It’s just one cube.  The length isn’t the width or the height, the width isn’t the length or the height, and the height isn’t the length or the width.  And the cube doesn’t “manifest” itself as height one day, width another day, and length yet another day, as some try to teach that the One God manifests Himself differently at different times.

The cube has three measurements, but they all coexist in the one cube at the same time.  Like His creation, God is, if you will, three-dimensional:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father isn’t the Son or the Spirit.  The Spirit isn’t the Father or the Son.  The Son isn’t the Father or the Spirit.  Three different Persons, for lack of a better word, all different, but all coexisting together as the One God.

The Word was God.

One final thought on this.  Some folks say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  Funny, but the people who heard Him say in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” understood that was exactly what He was claiming.  That’s why they tried to kill Him.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…, John 1:14.

This is the reason for the other two genealogies.  The story of Jesus doesn’t start, “Once upon a time….”  It’s rooted in and grounded firmly on the history of Israel as revealed in the Old Testament.  I know there are those who deny that He ever existed, but after all the attempts over 2000 years to get rid of Him, and He’s still here – must be something “real” about Him.

Notice John’s comparison.  The Word was God – the Word became flesh.  Nowhere does John or the Bible say that the Word “became,” that is, that it came into existence, or that it became God.  In other words, there has never been a time, if we can refer to eternity like that, when the Word did not exist, or that it was not God. There was a time, however, when the Word became flesh.  Matthew and Luke gives us a glimpse of that time.

The Word became flesh.

Four words.

The Word became flesh.  Four words.  Describing an event which has no parallel in human history.  Psalm 113:5, 6, says, Who is like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?

The Lord God “humbles” Himself even to look at this speck of dirt off to one side of His creation.  What must it have been like for the Lord Jesus to live on it?  We think we know so much, with our “Doctors of Theology,” our books, our “mega-churches,” etc. [and I’m not opposed to education or books or church], but I don’t think we understand even as much about our Lord’s “humiliation,” to use the theological term, as a newborn understands about its mother’s agony in bringing it to birth.  How can we?

It’s not for nothing that Paul refers to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in 2 Corinthians 8:9, where he continues, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor….  The Lord didn’t come to this world to be feted in Rome, or to live in a place like the White House or Buckingham Palace, although those places would be mere shacks compared to what He was used to.  He came to live a relatively minor, troublesome, province of Rome.  Except for one incident, He was unknown for nearly thirty years, and in the last three, “fame” was fleeing, and hostility and opposition were lasting and increasing.  Even though He rose from the dead, as far as the world is concerned, He might as well still be dead.  Indeed, much of the world thinks that He still is.  Even if people class Him with the religious leaders of this world, they are more likely to live by their teachings than His.

So, you see, the third genealogy gives us a more complete idea of Who Jesus of Nazareth really was.

And is.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,…  And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us….
_______________

(Originally published March 12, 2013.)  edited.

The Splendor of Christmas

And, no, we’re not writing about all the glitter and glitz of Christmas as it’s celebrated today.  Without doubt, there are some gorgeous displays of lights and ingenuity this time of the year, but, as with our last post on Christmas, we’re thinking of another day, a day which could not have been more opposite to today.

True, there were a couple of bright spots in that day of scandal, as we labeled it.  There was a visit by a few shepherds at the birth itself.  There was a visit perhaps a year or two later by an entourage which had traveled hundreds of miles to bring gifts to and worship the little one.  Their gifts, by the way, probably financed the family’s trip to and stay in Egypt.  This is not to leave out the angelic visits to Mary and Joseph explaining what was going on.

But for the most part, there was more shadow than light in that event.

So what was it that made this day worthy of remembrance?

Why should we care about something that happened 2000 years ago?  Is there anything else that happened back then that anybody cares about today?

Why this day?

It’s not about anything that happened “outside”.  It’s not even about Joseph or Mary, though a large part of professing Christendom has made it about her.  Indeed, it seems, for the most part, that they’ve made everything about her.

No, no, the day is special because of the Baby Himself.

But why this baby?  There may have been several other babies born in Israel that day. Certainly, world-wide, there were probably hundreds of babies born that day.

So. why this One?

John 1:14 says that He became flesh.  Philippians 2:7 says He took the form of a servant. 

What?

“Became”?

“Took”?

Who does that?  Nobody has any choice in the matter.  We don’t ask to be born.  Our kids will sometimes remind us of that.

This One did ask.

All the arrangements for what happened at Bethlehem, both leading up to and after, were made before God said, “Let there be light,” Genesis 1:3.  See 1 Peter 1:20.

You see, John 1:1 says that this One Who became flesh was God.  Oh, I know there are some who knock on your door who will say that He was only “a” god.  But if that were true, and it isn’t, then there is no salvation.  If only a creature, as JWs insist, then Jesus would have had all He could do to make it back to heaven Himself, let alone bring anyone else with Him.

Philippians 1:6 says that this One Who took the form of a servant, before then was in the form of God .  He didn’t think that exalted position was something to be selfishly clung to, but made Himself of no reputation.

“The form of God” means that He was truly God, just as “form of a servant” means that He was truly human.

“Made Himself of no reputation.”

Reputed illegitimate Son of a reputed adulteress.

Scandal.

No reputation.

Indeed.

There is an old hymn which says, The Son of God goes forth to war.”

Yes, He did.

As a baby.

That is the splendor of Christmas.